Wednesday, May 25, 2016

IM 70.3 Chattanooga: Regaining mental stamina

5:12:51, 7th out of 173 in F45-49

After last year's focus on sprints and Olympics I was ready to give a 70.3 another go, my fourth time at the half-iron distance. It had been a year and a half since the last half-iron at Beach2Battleship and I wanted the particular challenge that comes from longer distances. Last year, 10k runs had started to feel long and that just had to change. I wanted to regain that mental stamina!

I also will admit also to wanting to try my first IRONMAN branded race and I must say, it did not disappoint. My friend Scott described their events as "pageantry" and coupled with the incredible support of the city of Chattanooga and fantastic weather, it made for an exceptional weekend.

I spent Saturday getting settled in and met up with a number of folks that I work with - Coach Allen Stanfield and Coach Brad Noble of Team MPI along with Team MPI athlete Amy Hunt, pro Justin Metzler along with pro Jeanni Seymour. I ran into Swim Bike Mom, Meredith Atwood and her husband James who was racing, and I also met Mirinda Carfrae after the pro panel and quickly and awkwardly introduced myself as "the Cortney who works with Timothy"! (Full photo album here)

Sunday morning I was not super excited about getting bused to the swim start and having to wait in a line for the TT start (flashbacks to the long Boston Marathon wait) but it was actually not so bad. I was probably 2/3 of the way back in the line but still got off at 7:22 am after a 7:00 am age group start. I was much more relaxed than I am at the start of a shorter race because I knew I had many hours ahead of me. It was pretty weird marching along, to the end of the ramp, and jumping in like an obedient line of little ducks, and with little fanfare. Following the cold lake swims I've done, at 72/73 degrees, the water felt warm.

Written to Coach Jim: One fun thing about this swim was actually racing through the throngs of people. It was pretty crowded (despite having an entire river) and there was a wide range of abilities. You had to be able to swim while sighting to plan a line through the back strokers, water-treaders, breast strokers, and squeeze between people, swim defensively, and keep moving aggressively forward. I had a blast, and the water temps were perfect. 

It felt good to come up the swim ramp and run again and I passed a lot of people. My swim was ranked 14th in my AG (Garmin Connect Data here). I had a smooth transition and was ready to roll! 

Written to Coach Jim: Yes, I stopped and peed in the grass. I just couldn't bring myself to pee on the bike. The bike course was congested and there were a few times I had to throttle back due to vehicular traffic, or to avoid drafting. I didn't see a whole lot of drafting going on but I read reports of it. It would not have been too hard to get away with as I probably saw refs just 5x on the course. I tried not to blow up on the bike, and I felt good through to the end! I was ready to run!! There's one very short sort of steep hill that took its toll on a few people. It was pretty funny. Flatlanders!

Coach Jim noted that the "pee break" took 78 seconds, lol, but then I hit my peak 10-minute power immediately following that ;-) Overall, I averaged 189 watts, heart rate of 154, and I stayed pretty even, front half to back half, so I am happy! (56 miles in 2:43:07, 20.60 mph, Garmin Connect Data Here)

One thing I noticed on the bike was that a lot of people would coast down a roller, rather than pedal to carry momentum into the following hill. What a waste! Keep that power delivery consistent people, up AND down the hills! 

Last year I found myself dreading the run and I'm not sure why, so this year in training I have worked hard to reprogram my brain and relearn to be happy to run. It worked, and I took off feeling awesome, but controlled. I hit the paces I wanted without much effort and I was ticking off the miles and enjoying the run, the scenic course, and the energy of the volunteers at the aid stations.

Then at mile 5, on a short but steep hill, trouble hit. I got a cramp in my inner thigh, just above my knee (sartorius or vastus medialis), that stopped me in my tracks. It felt like it could be a race-ender. But after standing and resting it for nearly 3 minutes, taking in salt and mustard, it relaxed and I continued very carefully. I could feel it with every step. I had no salt left and thankfully got a "hit" of BASE salt from Sami Winter and another athlete on the course, thank you!!! 

All I could think of to grab at the aid stations were bananas (pre-peeled was appreciated) for the potassium, plus water and ice. I held up pretty well until just before that same hill on the two-loop course, and I ended up walking/stopping for another 3.5 minutes. I noticed everyone around me walked up that hill. Somehow through it all I kept positive and didn't panic and got through the remaining miles pretty well. 

It felt SO good to run over the final bridge with the encouragement of many spectators and make the turn to the finish line. (13.1 mi in 1:52:12, pace 08:33/mi, Garmin Connect Data here). I proved to myself that I had regained the mental stamina I wanted and needed. 

Total race time: 5:12:51 (full results here)

I look forward to my next go at this distance, hopefully minus the pee stop and cramp breaks, at IM 70.3 North Carolina in October. In the meantime it'll be back to the shorter distances, with my improved longer attention span and positive running attitude!

Thank you to Coach Jim of One-on-One Endurance for guiding me through this challenging race prep. I am coming up on seven years working with him, and I know I say this a lot, but it's true - I can't imagine doing this without him. I appreciate the structure, the challenge, the accountability, the encouragement, the corrections, and the sharing!!

Thank you to my family for supporting me through it all, as I disappear with my goggles, running shoes or bike for hours at a time.

Thank you to Bryan Walsh and Solar Connexion for the continued support of my racing! If you are in the VA/WV area and are interested in residential or commercial solar energy, you won't find a more experienced or knowledgeable contractor, so get in touch!